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Mrs Dalloway


Summary of "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf


"Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf, published in 1925, is a novel that intertwines the complex narratives of several characters in post-World War I England. The story, unfolding over a single day, centers on Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a high-society party. The novel is a rich exploration of time, consciousness, and the human experience, showcasing Woolf's pioneering stream-of-consciousness technique.


  • Clarissa Dalloway: The protagonist, a high-society woman in her fifties, known for her perfect hosting and social skills.
  • Septimus Warren Smith: A World War I veteran suffering from shell shock (PTSD), whose storyline parallels Clarissa's.
  • Peter Walsh: Clarissa's former suitor, who still harbors feelings for her and questions his life choices.
  • Richard Dalloway: Clarissa's husband, a Member of Parliament, who is loyal but emotionally distant.
  • Sally Seton: A close friend of Clarissa's from her youth, representing independence and unconventionality.
  • Elizabeth Dalloway: The teenage daughter of Clarissa and Richard, seeking her identity.
  • Dr. Bradshaw and Dr. Holmes: Physicians treating Septimus, representing societal and medical misunderstandings of mental health.

Plot Overview

The novel opens with Clarissa Dalloway stepping out to buy flowers for her party, reflecting on her past, her choices, and her privileged yet restricted existence in society. As the day progresses, we delve into the minds of various characters, each dealing with their internal struggles and memories.

Septimus Warren Smith, a war veteran, grapples with post-war trauma and hallucinations, portraying the harsh reality of war's impact on individuals. His narrative offers a stark contrast to the seemingly trivial concerns of the upper-class society.

Peter Walsh, still in love with Clarissa, is a symbol of unfulfilled dreams and societal expectations. His visit to Clarissa brings back memories and what-ifs.

The climax builds as Clarissa's party begins. Her world of upper-class decorum and the traumatic world of Septimus collide symbolically. The news of Septimus's suicide at her party forces Clarissa to confront the superficiality of her social world and her own existential crises.


  1. Time and Memory: Woolf explores the fluidity of time and the power of memory. The past continually intrudes into the present, shaping the characters' identities and experiences.
  2. Mental Health and War: The novel critically portrays society's treatment of mental health, especially in the context of post-war trauma.
  3. Existential Search for Meaning: Characters in the novel are in a constant search for meaning in their lives, amid societal expectations and personal desires.
  4. Class and Society: Woolf critiques the rigid structures of British society in the post-war context, highlighting the empty rituals and shallow relationships.


  • The Bells of Big Ben: Represent the passage of time and the omnipresence of societal structures.
  • Flowers: Symbolize both the beauty and brevity of life, and Clarissa's role in society.
  • Septimus's Death: Reflects the ultimate escape from a society that fails to understand or accept him.


"Mrs. Dalloway" is a profound commentary on the complexity of human consciousness, the societal pressures of post-war England, and the internal and external struggles of individuals. Woolf's narrative technique beautifully captures the inner lives of her characters, making the novel a cornerstone of modernist literature.